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American + US Airways: mmeh!

American's nice Admirals Club at SFO's Terminal 2 to see more action. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

American’s nice Admirals Club at SFO’s Terminal 2 to see more action. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

What’s the impact on Bay Area Travelers (BATs!) of the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways? Minor at best. Here’s why:

Neither carrier has a major presence at any the Bay Area’s three airports.

For example, at San Francisco International, American has been cutting back for several years now, dumping flights to Honolulu in 2011 and Boston in 2010. Currently, it has about 30 departures per day from SFO to (Los Angeles, Dallas Ft Worth, Miami, Chicago and New York) which is a drop in the bucket when you consider SFO handles some 600 departures every day.

When SFO recently revealed its top airlines in terms of market share for 2012, American and US Airways didn’t even show up. For 2012, AA and US took the  5th and 6th place positions for airline market share at SFO, with 6.9% and 3.5% shares respectively. However, combining the two carriers “as-is” would result in an airline about the same size as Virgin America, which has only about 9% of the market at SFO.

American walked away from Oakland in 2008. It stopped flying to Tokyo from San Jose in 2006. Its famous “nerd bird” flights between San Jose and Austin disappeared in 2009, but it still offers a handful of nonstops between SJC and Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas Ft Worth.

US Airways operates just 14 daily departures to three cities from SFO’s Terminal 1: Phoenix, Charlotte and Philadelphia. From San Jose and Oakland, it only flies to Phoenix.

A spokesman at SFO told the BAT that based on current usage at Terminal 2 by American and Virgin America, flights to cities currently served by US Airways could be folded into American’s operations there. That means American’s swishy, but relatively quiet Admirals Club at T2 (complete with pine trees and a fireplace) could soon see a little more action from former US Airways Club members.

On the upside, there are likely many Bay Area Travelers who still have large banks of American AAdvantage miles from back in the day when American was a major player here. Now, they will have the opportunity to use their miles to fly nonstop to cities served by US Airways.

And if anyone out there has a few stray miles in both AAdvantage and Dividend Miles accounts, those will now be combined into a merged program and could amount to something.

On the downside, United Mileage Plus members who earned and burned miles on Star Alliance partner US Airways will lose that option in the deal.

In any case, despite the media hew and cry this week over this merger, don’t expect change to come fast—the deal will have to go through regulatory approvals first, which could take at least six months or more. Then begins the long painful process of trying to merge two unpopular old airlines into something new and attractive.

Do you think they can pull it off? How will the American-US Airways merger affect you? How do you feel about having just four major US carriers: American, Delta, Southwest and United? Where does this leave our hometown carrier Virgin America? Please leave your comments below.

-Chris McGinnis